The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

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Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dubei dao aka The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

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We continue our Wild Card look at Hong Kong cinema here at the DTVC, with the iconic One-Armed Swordsman. I'm not entirely sure, but I think this might be the only Shaw Brothers film we review in this series, which I know sounds crazy, but I think that's just how things fell. Maybe next time around I'll devote more slots to them.

The One-Armed Swordsman follows the life of Fang Kang, who was raised as a boy by his father's master, after his father died protecting him from an attack (the master, not Fang). Anyway, as he's grown, he's become one of the best, which makes some of his classmates jealous, specifically two who are pining after the master's hot daughter, Pei-er. Pei-er has the hots for Fang, and when he he doesn't reciprocate, she slashes at him with her sword in a fit of anger, lopping off his right arm. Fang runs off, and is saved by a woman who lives alone on a farm. She nurses him back to health, but is distraught when he starts teaching himself how to fight again with just one arm, because she wants him to leave fighting behind and live a safer life. He wants the same, but when another clan wages war against his old master, he finds he has to go back and fight with him one more time, out of a sense of honor.

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This is an excellent film. The action was great-- for a movie with "swordsman" in the title, the sword fighting better be good, and it was-- and it was constant. I think what I liked most was how it had some messages that it wanted to impart to the audience, but it did it in a way that wasn't preachy, and also that didn't detract from the action. It was a little long for me, especially at the end when I thought Fang took his sweet time coming to his master's rescue, but that's a minor issue. Overall, well worth its status as a classic in Hong Kong cinema.

I brought this up in the Heatseeker post, but I'm going to get into it in more detail here because it was the film's raison d'etre. I'm talking about this Zen concept of using a handicap or detriment as a boon toward success, as opposed to viewing it simply as an obstacle. It's interesting as an American and looking at that in practice in my own culture. Growing up, a different message was always driven into us: you need to overcome handicaps, not accept them and use them to your advantage. Fang's story over here would've been the true story of Jim Abbott, a former MLB pitcher with one arm. The difference is, Abbott became a major league pitcher in spite of his handicap, while Fang used his handicap to become a different fighter, and it was as a different fighter that he was eventually able to prevail. I guess the way to look at it is, in the American instance, it's about taking the hand one's dealt, and playing it the same way one would play a better one, while the Zen message is, one must play the hand one's dealt in a manner befitting the hand.

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There's another big message looming in this film, and that one is about women. The message is, beware of beautiful women, they might be dangerous. It's better to find one who may not be as attractive, but who is loyal and cares. Within that message, of course, is the message that, no matter how many times they're told, men seldom listen and fall for the beautiful woman who in the end will be their downfall anyway. It sounds crazy to think that anyone would dump the woman who nursed them to health in favor of the woman who cut off their arm, but considering how hot the chick is in The One-Armed Swordsman, it's almost believable. But Fang is our wise hero, and he knew better than to fall for the beautiful Pei-er from the start-- and even that wasn't enough to keep him from letting down his guard and her cutting off his arm. Obviously this is an extreme metaphor-- a girl so beautiful a guy would take her back after she cut off his arm-- but if you drop it down a few notches and think about it, how many guys do you know have taken a woman back after, say, busting up his car, or destroying his clothes? Not so far fetched now, is it? Now I want to make clear, I'm not saying all beautiful women are bad news, just that men are blinded by beauty and do things that are not in their best interests.

There's always been a sort of cross-pollination between Hong Kong cinema and the Western, and you can see that quite a bit in The One-Armed Swordsman, right down to the bar fight sequence toward the end. I'm not sure when this movie takes place, but I heard in the commentary to Master of the Flying Guillotine that the Chinese consider the period under the Ch'ing (Qing) Dynasty to be like our Old West, so if this film took place in that time period-- which I think it did-- it would make sense that it would have that Western feel. I took a class as an undergrad in East Asian civilization, but that was over ten years ago, so things are a little fuzzy now.

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I watched the Dragon Dynasty version of this, and it was great. Over on Matt,Movie Guy, I've been looking at all the Kurosawa films on Netflix Watch Instantly, and saying how lucky we are to have so many good transfers of these movies so easily available. The same can be said about a lot of the Hong Kong films we've been looking at too, and probably to a much larger extent. Mr. Kenner and I were discussing the Chinatown EP bootleg VHS versions of some of these we used to have to endure, and now companies like Dragon Dynasty are bringing them to us on high quality DVDs. It's an exciting time to watch movies.

And that's my recommendation, because I'm sure most people are like me and they've seen this before (in my case almost 20 years ago!): check out the Dragon Dynasty version if you haven 't already. It's well worth it, and also it's a longer cut than you probably saw on VHS.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061597/

3 comments:

  1. I tell you, you could probably do a Shaw Brothers thing on your special week. There are so many great movies from The Shaw Brothers. They are sort of like the Golan and Globus of China. Only with even more kick ass kung fu movies.

    King Boxer:Five Fingers Of Death is a must see. Also highly recommended The Crippled Avengers,Heroes Of The East, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Five Deadly Venoms, Five Element Ninjas, Fist Of The White Lotus (one of my favorites, that's 4 stars there), Super Inframan. I have ALL of these in my DVD collection most of them in the older DVD issues. I mean there are a few duds here and there (Masked Avengers, Water Mark and

    As for One Armed Swordsman, this was a great movie, but believe it or not The Return Of The One Armed Swordsman is even better. Indeed I can't wait until next Tuesday, so I can get my hands on the Dragon Dynasty copy that is reissued. (And no I wasn't paid to say such, I earnestly love Dragon Dynasty for re-releasing such) There is also a One Armed Boxer which a lot of fun (Master Of The Flying Guillotine)

    One of the most affectionate things I call kung fu movies are "Easterns" for they have the same appeal. I think the main thing though is that I really have to see a kung fu movie dubbed. Much like a Godzilla movie. It just adds to the whole experience. I mean One Armed Swordsman is more than just kung fu as is the 80s things you'll get into, but if you ask me, the glum dubbing just add to the whole experience.

    I must admit, I really do have a passion for the martial arts genre. I can't say I will like it just because it is a martial arts movie but the final tally is probably not too far off. And by martial arts I mean from Bruce Lee, Shaw Brothers to Van Damme and Jackie Chan. It's just such a sweet genre.

    Let me put it to you this way, if I was put in a hospice to live out my final days, I think they would be of me watching kung fu movies from my youth. Maybe it's because I was kickboxing but i'm not sure if it was my love for the movies that got me into it or vice versa. Whatever the case I really have nostalgic love for such movies.

    So when I'm disappointed by slop like Fighting, Never Back Down and Rush Hour 1-3, you know it's just because of my bias.

    Also check out Undisputed III:Redemption. It's pretty good.

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  2. Yeah Never Back Down and Fighting were both pretty mediocre(hell I didn't even like Fight Club much, though that's mostly because of that infamous twist ending whihc severely undermined the film for me) though I do like the Rush Hour series. Anyways i've quite honestly never heard of the Shaw Brothers untl now, but I definitely do want to check out some of they're films now!

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  3. Good looking out on the Undisputed III. It'll be released officially on Tuesday, so we'll see if I can finagle my queue and return the movies I have now in a way to get it done.

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